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Facebooked

05 December 2013
Author   J.W. ASHEEKE

I finally have a Facebook page (Jackie Asheeke). I resisted for years. Somehow, I think it is too demanding to keep current; I think it’s over-rated; and I feel that it over-exposes people. But, I was brow-beaten into submission when my 75 year old mother, complained about not being able to post something on my wall about her volunteer work at her church. Gee Whiz.

Now, I am ‘Facebooked.’ I have been put in handcuffs, submitted mug shots and jailed in the world of Facebook.

It’s not that I am ‘anti’ social media. I’ve had a blog for more than a year (http://aetcnamibia.blogspot.com/). I’ve had a website for almost four years (www.africatourconsult.com) and I have been emailing for centuries (or so it seems!)

I admit openly that I was slow to the SMS thing. My kids taught me only 5 years ago or so. Now, I am a fast-finger moving SMS Jedi master. I’m baaaaad!

Though Telecom Namibia hates to hear it, Skype is terrific, particularly for people with family abroad or who travel a lot and need to remain in touch with clients and colleagues. Telecom, my darlins,’ face reality: you can’t hold back the ocean tide. Just like those people who were investors in black-and-white televisions, Betamax and VHS players, 8-track or cassette tapes, vinyl records, telephone booths, or leaded-gasoline cars, technology has delivered a death blow to the long-distance telephone call market.

Music CDs will die soon as you can pay and download whatever music you want on iTunes and AND, keep your music (and photos and documents) in a CLOUD, so that even if someone steals your stuff or if there is a fire, you will have ALL of your songs and other information forever!

In my mind, I have done a good job as a middle-aged silver surfer, to embrace the internet and play video games (my loves are SimCity 4, Alpha Centauri, and Caesar III and IV – I don’t like the bloody ‘shoot-em, fight-em, kill-em games’). I Google facts quickly and read news articles from around the world.

I use my Kindle Fire HD for many different services, not only for books. Paper books will still exist in this world, but in 25 years 75% of the books now published traditionally, will no longer be. Schools will have kindles or tablets (made onto desks) in place of heavy, cumbersome text books. Information in those books can be updated regularly and inexpensively. Now, if we can get cheap, renewable energy in every corner of Namibia, then we can really join the ICT revolution!

When I got Facebooked, immediately people came out of the woodpile asking to ‘friend’ me. Goodness! There were people I hadn’t even thought about since High School; there were people I served with on diplomatic duty and old undergrad and grad school folks, all asking to ‘friend me.’ More concerning is the army of people I have never heard of, asking to friend me.

Even though I can ignore these requests or say ‘no’, it’s overwhelming. I feel exposed. Why should people who have never met me, know my name or anything about me? In these days of identity theft, conmen and fraud, you have to be very, very careful about who has access to any of your personal details.

Then there is diplomacy and protocol on Facebook. If you don’t ‘friend’ someone, it’s somewhat insulting. I have young nieces, nephews and cousins from the USA who want to ‘friend me.’ But, why? I am certain their favorite songs, photos and issues have no interest for me. I live on the moon. I feel hard pressed to relate to their priorities and while I love them, I don’t know what to say to them.

At times, they seriously chat about some talentless diva on some stupid (fake) reality show and who she is sleeping with lately as if that is the most important thing in the world. But, I see life/livelihood issues in this world that need the attention and debate of our young people, yet I’d bore them to tears if I went off about those things. Facebook seems to be an artificial world which embraces superficial things that can distract people from the real problems. Still, sometimes conversations are about (American) football, my sports passion (Go Broncos!) Or about their dreams for the future which are enlightening or budding political commentary.

In the Facebook world, people misuse the word ‘friend’ to the point where a valuable, powerful word is now meaningless. I read about people who are happy that they have 890 ‘friends’ or over 2,000 friends! For businesses or movie stars or someone selling a product, FINE… more ‘friends’ is a good thing if it generates income. But, for individuals, how can you really have 689 friends? You may have 345 names on your list, but they are not ‘friends.’ They are just people who have access to your page on Facebook and who may not even regularly read or see what you post.

Friendship is very special in my mind. In life, you are blessed to actually have ONE true friend. A friend is someone who speaks to your soul and you to theirs; someone you trust as easily as you breathe and someone who will accept you as you are and vice-verse. To click on a box on Facebook is NOT friendship.

Then there is the blurring of professional and personal lines. There are employers who want access to applicants’ Facebook page to make hiring decisions. This is the wave of the future.

Imagine all the things that hit the internet about you, floating around out there, never changing, even though you do. You might take something off your page, but what about all the people and pages connected to your page and with access to your info or pictures? – how can you erase that? FYI - Have you Googled your own name lately?

I have potential business clients and colleagues who want me to ‘friend’ them on Facebook so they can send some information; but, what about after that? You cannot ‘un-friend’ someone without causing insult. So, what can one do?

Why not have a Facebook system that allows LEVELS of friends? Family, colleagues, acquaintances, casual meets and REAL friends could all be separated into different pages, seeing different things.

All the negative stuff aside, I have to say that via Facebook, I am more in touch with what my kids are doing from day to day than I was via email.

My daughter Neni (doing Early Childhood Development in Germany) set up my page and still offers me exasperated tutorials whenever I get stuck. She even helped me start ‘Tweeting.’

My son, Toivo (doing his PhD in upstate New York) emailed me only sporadically in the past few years. Now, with Facebook, I can follow his subjects, see what books he is reading, follow his thesis research, and watch the anti-racism protests he helps to lead. He even knows what music I like and steers me towards great new songs.

My youngest daughter, Martha, is studying graphic design abroad. I can Facebook message her late in her night (she is 12 hours behind me!) as she is a ‘bat’ and up at weird times. We talk more using Facebook than we did when she lived with at home! We can talk fashion or about our Labrador puppies (I have a few left for sale – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or about what’s up at home.

Being Facebooked is not all bad; but I am still intimidated. While I encourage the middle-aged crew to get into social media, I do so with words of caution. Participate as if everything you post will be seen by everyone who you don’t want to see it.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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